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‘Star Trek’ still prospering at 40

TV Land to air four classic episodes Friday night to mark show's anniversary
/ Source: The Associated Press

Cue the iconic theme music: Forty years ago, on September 8, 1966, "Star Trek" lifted off into TV and cultural history.

Over the subsequent decades, the sci-fi adventure series has amassed millions of fans and emerged as a relentless entertainment empire.

Stars William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy sat down recently with the Associated Press and recalled "The Man Trap," the episode that would kick off the show's three-year prime-time run.

"The first show that was on the air was a show with a creature that was a salt sucker," recalled Nimoy. "It was somebody inside a weird-looking suit and it attacked humans because it needed the copper or the salt out of your body to survive or something like that."

"That was the first one?" asked Shatner.

"Yes, that was the first one on the air," Nimoy answered. "And it was because NBC decided that this series would be most successful if we had sort of a monster of the week to sell. What's the monster this week? And so they put a monster show on the air the first episode, and I think it was a terrible mistake, because it was really not what we were about."

To mark the anniversary, classic-TV network TV Land on Friday (8 p.m. EDT) will showcase four episodes from the original "Star Trek" series, including the premiere and the historic episode featuring TV's first interracial kiss. "Star Trek" episodes will begin airing regularly on the channel on November 17. Episodes will also be available online at

It's first season, ratings and many reviews were somewhat lackluster, as was communication between the leading men. The second season, they agreed, was the show's strongest.

This blast from the past got Nimoy reminiscing. "I first met Bill several years after ‘Star Trek' went off the air," he joked, inspiring Shatner to laugh.

"That's a funny line," Shatner injected. "We're talking about ‘Star Trek' 40 years and that's the first time he said that."

"We were too busy making the show to meet," Nimoy continued.

Shatner: "He'd go into makeup early in the morning, and I'd arrive jauntily hours later, and then have to drag him — by three hours in makeup, he was exhausted. Rest of the day, I'd have to drag him along."

"He'd carry me the rest of the day," Nimoy said, jokingly. "And I'd say to him, literally, ‘Who are you? What's your name?"

"Literally," Shatner said, completing the comic riff. "I had to introduce myself by the third year. This is Frick and Frack. We do this all the time."

The "Star Trek" movies that followed were hit-and-miss critically, but most were commercial successes. Subsequent "Star Trek" TV series were all hits, except for the last, "Enterprise," which debuted in 2001 and went off the air in 2005, failing to find a sizable audience.

"Lost" creator and "Mission: Impossible III" director J.J. Abrams has reportedly been signed to direct a new big-screen "Trek" feature.

"He's a very talented man," said Nimoy, himself a successful director of the blockbusting "Three Men and a Baby" and other films. "I think he should get in touch with us right away."

"And pay our price," said Shatner, dryly.

"That would make us happy, to be helpful," added Nimoy, laughing.

In addition to the TV Land airings and upcoming movie, high-definition versions of the original "Star Trek" shows, complete with updated special effects, are set to debut in syndication September 16th. Check your local listings.